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Clinical Lanka wrest match, series

cricket Updated: Aug 11, 2008 23:00 IST
Anand Vasu
Anand Vasu
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

On Monday morning, even as people in India were tuning in to news channels to confirm what seemed unbelievable — that Abhinav Bindra had won India's first-ever individual Olympic gold medal — the YouTube website was on display on the computers of most Indian journalists in Colombo.

With the Indian national anthem playing in the backdrop as Bindra received his medal, Rahul Dravid was dismissed, ending all hopes of pulling off an Eden-2001 escape.

On a day when a shooter had achieved the incredible, the cricket team could not stave off the inevitable, handing Sri Lanka an eight-wicket win in the final Test and the series 2-1.

Nothing short of a miracle would have sufficed, with India opening the day on an effective score of 14 for five, and VVS Laxman struggling to put weight on a strained left ankle.

Remarkably, and somewhat disappointingly, for it came when the series was dead and gone, Laxman and Dravid put together a spell of batting where neither appeared to be in any discomfort playing the two spinners who have played havoc till now.

Laxman’s inability to run did not prove to be a hindrance — only Gautam Gambhir, his runner, was given a thorough workout — as he drove and flicked with confidence and excellent timing. Dravid too was precise in his footwork, cover driving the fast bowlers in style and smothering the spinners with a dead bat.

The pair needed to bat till well into the day if they were to change India’s fortunes, but in the 91st minute of the day, Dravid fell.

Ajantha Mendis bowled a quickish, flat delivery from around the stumps and it went away just enough to take the outside edge, Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene taking a sharp catch at slip. 85 had been added for the sixth wicket.

Laxman continued to keep his end up and remained unbeaten on 61 even as the tail was swiftly snuffed out. Sri Lanka, set 122 to win, with all the time in the world to spare, had to bat with some semblance of normalcy to win.

India, still without the services of Ishant Sharma, opened with Harbhajan and Zaheer Khan, desperately seeking early wickets.

Harbhajan produced a peach of a drifter that hurried past Michael Vandort. 11 runs later, Kumar Sangakkara checked an off-drive against Zaheer and found mid-off. At 22 for two, there was a momentary shudder in the Sri Lankan camp, but the target was never going to pose serious problems.

Malinda Warnapura and Mahela Jayawardene both remained unbeaten, taking the team to a victory against their neighbours from across the Palk Strait with some ease.

In truth, India had lost the Test well before the final day.

After batting first and scoring only 249 they had a chance to make amends in the second innings, but once again the batting collapsed.

Mendis walked away with a richly deserved Man of the Series award, for his 26 wickets at 18.38. Muttiah Muralitharan, who was for once overshadowed, was by no means ineffective, harvesting his customary 21 wickets.

India's bowlers had tried their hardest, but were nowhere near as effective as their counterparts. And what’s more, Sri Lanka had found different heroes on different days in the series. India’s heroes had merely found different ways to be undone.

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